The Hollow Needle
8. From Caesar To Lupin
Dash it all, it took me ten days! Me! Lupin!
You will want ten years, at least!--
These words, uttered by Lupin after leaving the Chateau de Velines, had no little
influence on Beautrelet's conduct.
Though very calm in the main and invariably master of himself, Lupin, nevertheless, was
subject to moments of exaltation, of a more or less romantic expansiveness, at once
theatrical and good-humored, when he allowed certain admissions to escape him, certain
imprudent speeches which a boy like Beautrelet could easily turn to profit.
Rightly or wrongly. Beautrelet read one of these involuntary admissions into that phrase.
He was entitled to conclude that, if Lupin drew a comparison between his own efforts and
Beautrelet's in pursuit of the truth about the Hollow Needle, it was because the two of
them possessed identical means of attaining their object, because Lupin had no elements
of success different from those possessed by his adversary. The chances were alike. Now,
with the same chances, the same elements of success, the same means, ten days had been
enough for Lupin.
What were those elements, those means, those chances? They were reduced, when all
was said, to a knowledge of the pamphlet published in 1815, a pamphlet which Lupin, no
doubt, like Massiban, had found by accident and thanks to which he had succeeded in
discovering the indispensable document in Marie Antoinette's book of hours.
Therefore, the pamphlet and the document were the only two fundamental facts upon
which Lupin had relied. With these he had built up the whole edifice. He had had no
extraneous aid. The study of the pamphlet and the study of the document--full stop--that
Well, could not Beautrelet confine himself to the same ground? What was the use of an
impossible struggle? What was the use of those vain investigations, in which, even
supposing that he avoided the pitfalls that were multiplied under his feet, he was sure, in
the end, to achieve the poorest of results?
His decision was clear and immediate; and, in adopting it, he had the happy instinct that
he was on the right path. He began by leaving his Janson-de-Sailly schoolfellow, without
indulging in useless recriminations, and, taking his portmanteau with him, went and
installed himself, after much hunting about, in a small hotel situated in the very heart of
Paris. This hotel he did not leave for days. At most, he took his meals at the table d'hote.
The rest of the time, locked in his room, with the window-curtains close-drawn, he spent